Computing Research: Content security in the cloud – no longer hot air

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Fears about the cloud relating to security, control and reliability are finally being laid to rest as increasing numbers of organisations start to experience its benefits.

While moving to the cloud may not be the answer for all aspects of IT, some areas – including security – lend themselves well to the cloud model in which performance is guaranteed by a financially backed service-level agreement (SLA).

In January 2011 Computing surveyed 150 business decision makers at UK SMEs to establish the state of play in the content and end point arena, and to see whether or not the growth of the cloud has persuaded such organisations to move on from the traditional on-premises content security delivery model.

The survey looked at the features that both cloud and on-premises users considered important in a security system and also the glitches and teething problems experienced with each type.

Just under half of the respondents were found to be using cloud services to deliver at least some aspect of their IT security (generally email and web protection) with about 50 per cent of the remainder either researching the technology or taking active steps to adopt it.

The fact that 75 per cent of UK SMEs are either using or considering the cloud for IT security suggests that historic concerns about data protection and loss of control have largely been laid to rest.

Unsurprisingly, the most important feature of a security system in the view of the respondents was found to be the effectiveness of the threat-blocking mechanism.

The survey results indicate that cloud solutions are superior to on-premises security systems in this regard, with only half the number of cloud users reporting malware attacks as their on-premises counterparts.

Availability and resilience also featured high on the list of desirable features. Again, this is an area in which cloud providers excel, guaranteeing 99.999 per cent uptime in their SLA, a level that is virtually impossible to match using in-house systems.

And users of cloud security systems rated ongoing manageability more highly than their on-premises counterparts. This suggests that ease of management played a part in their decision to deploy managed cloud services, as these are indeed much more straightforward to manage.

The cloud might not be suitable for every organisation and there will always be those with good reason to maintain in-house systems. However, the survey results suggest that a tipping point may have been reached, with cloud services now considered the norm rather than a newcomer that has yet to prove its trustworthiness.

To see the rest of the results and detailed analysis, download the report

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